f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Don Miller Part Deux

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Don Miller Part Deux

Driving home last night I had a terrible feeling that I somehow missed the point with yesterday's post and when I reread it today, indeed, I did. Missed it completely. Missed it, in fact, in the same way I’d chastised others for missing it by focusing on content out of context.

If you read yesterday’s post knowing nothing about Blue Like Jazz you might be wondering about my praise for the book. Do I like simply the book because Don smokes, hangs out at Reed College, likes people who swear? Hardly.

This happens a lot with me. When you have to talk about widening content avenues, you end up sounding like some big supporter of drinking or smoking or sex or drugs or whatever controversial content we feel is being left out, unrealistically, of Christian novels.

The point is to simply end the discussion of contextless content altogether. Or at least make it broad enough that I don’t need to spend hours debating the spiritual significance of the word “hell” appearing in a book. But the conversation WON’T go away, the debate WON’T disappear, and so I simply become stuck on one side of the debate rather than being able to talk about what I really want to talk about—which is the CONTEXT of the book. The story in a novel. Or the life revealed in Don Miller’s memoir.

I’ve become so used to merely staying on one side of the argument that yesterday, without really even being in a discussion, I managed to fully miss the point.

At its core, Blue Like Jazz is not about smoking pipes or doing drugs or people who swear or listening to cool music. It’s about Don Miller’s faith journey. His realization that his own long-standing self-absorption was a symptom of “original sin” that was keeping him from following Jesus fully. His community of friends around him who challenged and pushed and provoked him. His later understanding of grace, and his inability to accept love.

It’s about Jesus and the Christian life and one man trying to figure it out. It’s about a passion for trying to live like Christ, not how others want you to live for Christ. It’s about reaching out in love to those who might think otherwise. And for all those reasons I greatly appreciated it. And it’s for THOSE reasons that I recommend it.

It’s a book that I think (if it isn’t already) will become a touchstone work in the growing emergent movement along with A New Kind of Christian by Brian McClaren.

I’m not going to completely let it off the hook, however, because I think there’s some ways in which it raises interesting points about how a work is responsible for its content. Or at least the context in which that content is presented. And I think there’s a few ways to read the context—overt or subtle—of Blue Like Jazz.